How I Shoot and Edit Street Photography

I’ve grown to love street photography more and more over the past few months, especially at night. It’s very refreshing because a urban context is constantly evolving and moving, so it’s never boring even if it’s the same city.

It is also very challenging because a photo opportunity may last only for a few seconds or even less. I miss most of the shots, but I learned not to obsess about that.

Is this a missed shot?

My Kit And Camera Settings

Street photography means handheld, so no tripod. Easy.

I don’t use a camera bag but only a camera strap with a quick release plate. If I feel the area I’m in offers many opportunities, I keep my camera attached to my wrist with a strap to be able to shoot even quicker. My G9 turns on very quick, so I don’t keep it on all the time so the battery lasts longer.

I almost always use prime lenses when I’m out in the streets. They’re fast, compact and sharp. Currently, I have four prime lenses:

  • 14mm f/2.5 (28mm full-frame): not getting much use lately as I use the 20mm way more;
  • 20mm f/1.7 (40mm full-frame): useful to capture establishing, wider shots in good light; I use this lens mostly in places I don’t know well, like new cities, during the day because focus seeking is slow and becomes unusable at night;
  • 25mm f/1.7 (50mm full-frame): equivalent to the famous nifty fifty; I use this lens most of the time when I’m at ease in the area or when shooting in my hometown Milan, Italy;
  • 42.5mm f/1.7 (85mm full-frame): a longer focal length to reach a little bit farther or to isolate subjects in a crowded environment. I also love this lens to experiment new compositions.

All of that said, I have the temptation to sell the 14mm and 20mm and keep only the 25m and the 42.5mm, which are way more fun and interesting to shoot with. I don’t use the 42.5mm often, but I simply love it.

Left to right: Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5, 20mm f/1.7, 25mm f/1.7, 42.5mm f/1.7.

I shoot in Aperture Priority with Auto ISO at full f/1.7 aperture during the night or with low light and stopping down to f/2.8 during a sunny day.

I have profiles set on my camera to limit the ISO to 800 or 1600 and to require a minimum shutter speed, depending on the conditions. I prefer blurry photos over no photos.


To get shots in a urban environment, the best way is to just go out for a walk, keep moving and observe. I shoot what I find interesting and what picks my attention: this way it never gets boring.

If I feel like I can wait a few moments for a vehicle or a person to line up with something, I certainly do it to get the shot. The key here is trying to anticipate photo opportunities because they come and go very quickly.

I love shooting into the sun.

Regarding people, I always try not to annoy them. I never get very close, and I aim to make faces not immediately recognizable. My goal is not to shoot portraits, but rather to tell a story about urban life: photos may or may not include people. I find that, often, lights and vehicles are enough to give life to a photo.

This photo is almost a portrait, isn’t it? You could recognize those two young men.

I find crowds are not very photogenic, so I try to shoot accordingly.

Depending on the city, area, light and season, I may go back home after a day out with a handful of shots – or a couple hundred.


My process for downloading and selecting photos is the same I described for landscape shots.

If I’ve visited a new place, I come home with way more shots that I will find usable. If I’m having a walk in my hometown, then I am much more capable to only shoot what I know will work.

As for the actual editing, I adopt a more standardized approach.

Over time, I created a set of Lightroom presets that I use as a starting point. Each preset is tailored to a specific lighting condition and mood.

  • Cold Night
  • Warm Night
  • Split-Toned Night
  • Metro
  • Cloudy Day
  • Rainy Stormy Day
  • Sunny Day
  • Strong B&W

In general, these presets all include:

  • Reduced clarity
  • S-curve, with de-saturation of blacks
  • Tweaks in color rendering for highlights and shadows
  • Adjusted saturation for specific colors.

After applying one of these presets, I proceed to fine tune the image and this usually takes only a few minutes. I remove distracting elements, garbage, and the million cigarette butts that plague our cities, and this can take quite a long time.

With street photography I don’t aim to have a perfectly balanced histogram. On the contrary, I prefer to have more contrast even if certain areas of the image are vastly under- or over-exposed. Impact is what I look for when shooting and editing street photography.

Slightly overexposed sky, underexposed shadows. This photo is great!

My process for organizing edited street photos is again the same for landscapes, so I won’t repeat it here.

Now that you’ve made it so far, you may want to have a look at my street photography galleries.